2189.) Acts 12:20-25

September 21, 2017
theater

According to Josephus, Herod Agrippa died here in the theater at Caesarea Maritima.  Photograph by Ferrell Jenkins.

Acts 12:20-25   (NLT)

The Death of Herod Agrippa

Herod the Great was ruler when Jesus was born (Matthew 2:1-16). His grandson is this Herod, Herod Agrippa I. And there is also Herod Antipas, who was there at Jesus’ trials (Luke 23:7-12).  Herod Antipas is an uncle to this man, Herod Agrippa I. And later in Acts we will meet Herod Agrippa II, this man’s son. Too many Herods!

20 Now Herod was very angry with the people of Tyre and Sidon. So they sent a delegation to make peace with him because their cities were dependent upon Herod’s country for food. The delegates won the support of Blastus, Herod’s personal assistant, 21 and an appointment with Herod was granted. When the day arrived, Herod put on his royal robes, sat on his throne, and made a speech to them. 22 The people gave him a great ovation, shouting, “It’s the voice of a god, not of a man!”

23 Instantly, an angel of the Lord struck Herod with a sickness, because he accepted the people’s worship instead of giving the glory to God. So he was consumed with worms and died.

The diademed head of Herod Agrippa I on this ancient coin from Judea.

The ancient Jewish historian Josephus described the death of Herod in gory detail (Antiquities, XIX.8.2).

“He put on a garment made wholly of silver, and of a contexture truly wonderful, and came into the theatre early in the morning; at which time the silver of his garment, being illuminated by the fresh reflection of the sun’s rays upon it, shone out after a surprising manner, and was so resplendent as to spread a horror over those that looked intently upon him; and presently his flatterers cried out, one from one place, and another from another (though not for his good), that he was a god . . . A severe pain also arose in his belly, and began in a most violent manner . . . when he had been quite worn out by the pain in his belly for five days, he departed this life.”

24 Meanwhile, the word of God continued to spread, and there were many new believers.

25 When Barnabas and Saul had finished their mission to Jerusalem, they returned to the church at Antioch, taking John Mark with them.

Acts can be neatly divided into two sections, the first dealing primarily with the ministry of Peter in Jerusalem and Samaria (Acts 1-12) and the second following Paul on his missionary journeys throughout the Roman Empire (Acts 13-28). Acts is significant for chronicling the spread of the gospel, not only geographically but also culturally. It records the transition from taking the gospel to an exclusively Jewish audience—with Peter preaching to a small group in the Upper Room—to the gospel going out among the Gentiles, primarily under the ministry of the apostle Paul. The transition is best illustrated by Peter’s vision in which he heard a voice telling him, “What God has cleansed, no longer consider unholy” (10:15). This led Peter to then share the gospel with many Gentiles. The lesson? God wants His message of hope and salvation to extend to all people—“in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth” (1:8).

–Charles R. Swindoll

_________________________

Music:

Verse 23 tells us that Herod was struck dead because “he accepted the people’s worship instead of giving the glory to God.”  Let’s join in a song in which we give the glory to God! Two versions of “To God Be the Glory” follow, so take your choice!

HERE  is a big production from the Royal Albert Hall, stage choirs and audience. This is the Fanny Crosby hymn.

HERE is Sissel Kyrkjebø, a Norwegian soprano. (The first name ‘Sissel’ is a Norwegian variant of ‘Cecilia,’ from St. Cecilia, the patron saint of church music.) This is the Andre Crouch song, also known as “My Tribute.”

_________________________

Images courtesy of:
Jenkins.     http://ferrelljenkins.files.wordpress.com/2009/06/caesarea_theater-t.jpg?w=500&h=340
Herod coin.    http://www.wildwinds.com/coins/greece/judaea/agrippa_I/Hendin_546.jpg
You will be my witness.   http://www.parkwoodbaptist.com/files/419/Pictures/Clipart/Acts-1.png
Advertisements

2188.) Acts 12:1-19

September 20, 2017

“The Liberation of st. Peter” by Hendrick van Steenwyck the Younger, 1619 (Windsor Castle, London)

Acts 12:1-19   (NLT)

James Is Killed and Peter Is Imprisoned

1 About that time King Herod Agrippa began to persecute some believers in the church. 2 He had the apostle James (John’s brother) killed with a sword.

The Beheading of St. James — by Fra Filippo Lippi, 1455 (part of the Pistoia Sante Trinita Altarpiece in the National Gallery, London)

So James drank the cup . . .

Mark 10:35-40 (ESV)

And James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came up to him and said to him, “Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.”

And he said to them, “What do you want me to do for you?”

And they said to him, “Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory.”

Jesus said to them, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or to be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?”

And they said to him, “We are able.”

And Jesus said to them, “The cup that I drink you will drink, and with the baptism with which I am baptized, you will be baptized, but to sit at my right hand or at my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared.”

3 When Herod saw how much this pleased the Jewish people, he also arrested Peter. (This took place during the Passover celebration.) 4 Then he imprisoned him, placing him under the guard of four squads of four soldiers each. Herod intended to bring Peter out for public trial after the Passover. 5 But while Peter was in prison, the church prayed very earnestly for him.

Peter’s Miraculous Escape from Prison

“The Liberation of St. Peter from Prison.” Fresco, by Filippino Lippi 1471 (Brancacci Chapel, Florence, Italy)

6 The night before Peter was to be placed on trial, he was asleep, fastened with two chains between two soldiers. Others stood guard at the prison gate. 7 Suddenly, there was a bright light in the cell, and an angel of the Lord stood before Peter. The angel struck him on the side to awaken him and said, “Quick! Get up!” And the chains fell off his wrists. 8 Then the angel told him, “Get dressed and put on your sandals.” And he did. “Now put on your coat and follow me,” the angel ordered.

9 So Peter left the cell, following the angel. But all the time he thought it was a vision. He didn’t realize it was actually happening. 10 They passed the first and second guard posts and came to the iron gate leading to the city, and this opened for them all by itself. So they passed through and started walking down the street, and then the angel suddenly left him.

Psalm 34:7 (NASB)

The angel of the LORD encamps around those who fear Him,
And rescues them.

11 Peter finally came to his senses. “It’s really true!” he said. “The Lord has sent his angel and saved me from Herod and from what the Jewish leaders had planned to do to me!”

12 When he realized this, he went to the home of Mary, the mother of John Mark, where many were gathered for prayer. 13 He knocked at the door in the gate, and a servant girl named Rhoda came to open it. 14 When she recognized Peter’s voice, she was so overjoyed that, instead of opening the door, she ran back inside and told everyone, “Peter is standing at the door!”

Don’t you just love Rhoda?!

15 “You’re out of your mind!” they said. When she insisted, they decided, “It must be his angel.”

16 Meanwhile, Peter continued knocking. When they finally opened the door and saw him, they were amazed.

_________________________

Music:

HERE  is a song has many sweet recollections for me — a trip down memory lane! “Let My Love Open the Door” by Pete Townshend, guitarist and songwriter for the English rock band The Who. He has written that his song was intended as a message from God, although I can’t say that most people hear it that way! This video is from 1980, as you will immediately recognize!

When people keep repeating
That you’ll never fall in love
When everybody keeps retreating
But you can’t seem to get enough
Let my love open the door
Let my love open the door
Let my love open the door
To your heart

When everything feels all over
When everybody seems unkind
I’ll give you a four-leaf clover
Take all the worry out of your mind
Let my love open the door
Let my love open the door
Let my love open the door
To your heart

I have the only key to your heart
I can stop you falling apart
Try today, you’ll find this way
Come on and give me a chance to say
Let my love open the door
It’s all I’m living for
Release yourself from misery
Only one thing’s gonna set you free
That’s my love
Let my love open the door
Let my love open the door

When tragedy befalls you
Don’t let them bring you down
Love can cure your problem
You’re so lucky I’m around
Let my love open the door
Let my love open the door
Let my love open the door
To your heart

_________________________

17 He motioned for them to quiet down and told them how the Lord had led him out of prison. “Tell James and the other brothers what happened,” he said. And then he went to another place.

Not the James who was just killed, obviously. Perhaps James, the brother of Jesus?

18 At dawn there was a great commotion among the soldiers about what had happened to Peter. 19 Herod Agrippa ordered a thorough search for him. When he couldn’t be found, Herod interrogated the guards and sentenced them to death. Afterward Herod left Judea to stay in Caesarea for a while.

As was not untypical in ancient times, those responsible for a prisoner’s escape received the prisoner’s punishment.

________________________

Images courtesy of:
Steenwyck.  http://www.wga.hu/art/s/steenwyc/liberati.jpg
Lippi (in London).    http://www.nationalgallery.org.uk/paintings/fra-filippo-lippi-and-workshop-beheading-of-saint-james-the-great-predella-panel
Lippi (in Florence).     http://www.abcgallery.com/L/lippi/lippi2.html

2187.) Acts 11

September 19, 2017

See Antioch of Syria, in the lower right side. This Antioch (one of many cities with that name) was the third-largest city in the Roman Empire. It was the western terminus of the Silk Road, with camels bringing silk, spices, and other exotic goods. The city served as St. Paul’s “home base” for his various missionary journeys.

Acts 11 (NLT)

Peter Explains His Actions

1 Soon the news reached the apostles and other believers in Judea that the Gentiles had received the word of God. 2 But when Peter arrived back in Jerusalem, the Jewish believers criticized him. 3 “You entered the home of Gentiles and even ate with them!” they said.

Such a close association with “them” was considered compromise and an affront to Jewish standards.

4 Then Peter told them exactly what had happened. 5 “I was in the town of Joppa,” he said, “and while I was praying, I went into a trance and saw a vision. Something like a large sheet was let down by its four corners from the sky. And it came right down to me. 6 When I looked inside the sheet, I saw all sorts of small animals, wild animals, reptiles, and birds. 7 And I heard a voice say, ‘Get up, Peter; kill and eat them.’

11. Peter's vision rooftop

8 “‘No, Lord,’ I replied. ‘I have never eaten anything that our Jewish laws have declared impure or unclean.’

9 “But the voice from heaven spoke again: ‘Do not call something unclean if God has made it clean.’ 10 This happened three times before the sheet and all it contained was pulled back up to heaven.

11 “Just then three men who had been sent from Caesarea arrived at the house where we were staying. 12 The Holy Spirit told me to go with them and not to worry that they were Gentiles. These six brothers here accompanied me, and we soon entered the home of the man who had sent for us. 13 He told us how an angel had appeared to him in his home and had told him, ‘Send messengers to Joppa, and summon a man named Simon Peter. 14 He will tell you how you and everyone in your household can be saved!’

11. believe button

Acts 16:29-32 (NIV)

The jailer called for lights, rushed in and fell trembling before Paul and Silas. He then brought them out and asked, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”

They replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your household.” Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all the others in his house.

15 “As I began to speak,” Peter continued, “the Holy Spirit fell on them, just as he fell on us at the beginning. 16 Then I thought of the Lord’s words when he said, ‘John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’ 17 And since God gave these Gentiles the same gift he gave us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I to stand in God’s way?”

The event at Cornelius’s house passes two tests:  that God is at work, and that what happens is in line with Scripture.

18 When the others heard this, they stopped objecting and began praising God. They said, “We can see that God has also given the Gentiles the privilege of repenting of their sins and receiving eternal life.”

Romans 10:12-13 (NIV)

For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile—the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

The Church in Antioch of Syria

19 Meanwhile, the believers who had been scattered during the persecution after Stephen’s death traveled as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus, and Antioch of Syria. They preached the word of God, but only to Jews. 20 However, some of the believers who went to Antioch from Cyprus and Cyrene began preaching to the Gentiles about the Lord Jesus. 21 The power of the Lord was with them, and a large number of these Gentiles believed and turned to the Lord.

22 When the church at Jerusalem heard what had happened, they sent Barnabas to Antioch. 23 When he arrived and saw this evidence of God’s blessing, he was filled with joy, and he encouraged the believers to stay true to the Lord. 24 Barnabas was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and strong in faith. And many people were brought to the Lord.

25 Then Barnabas went on to Tarsus to look for Saul. 26 When he found him, he brought him back to Antioch. Both of them stayed there with the church for a full year, teaching large crowds of people. (It was at Antioch that the believers were first called Christians.)

“Praise God that you bear that name!”

–1 Peter 4:16 

_________________________

The word Christian can be understood as “the party of Christ” or “little Christ.”

Martin Luther wrote, in The Freedom of a Christian (1520):

“As our heavenly Father has in Christ freely come to our aid, we also ought freely to help our neighbor through our body and its works, and each one should become as it were a Christ to the other that we may be Christs to one another and Christ may be the same in all, that is, that we may be truly Christians . . .

“But alas in our day this life is unknown throughout the world; it is neither preached about nor sought after; we are altogether ignorant of our own name and do not know why we are Christians or bear the name of Christians. Surely we are named after Christ, not because he is absent from us, but because he dwells in us, that is, because we believe in him and are Christs one to another and do to our neighbors as Christ does to us.”

C. S. Lewis writes, in Mere Christianity (1952):

” . . . the Church exists for nothing else but to draw men into Christ, to make them little Christs. If they are not doing that, all the cathedrals, clergy, missions, sermons, even the Bible itself, are simply a waste of time. God became Man for no other purpose. It is even doubtful, you know, whether the whole universe was created for any other purpose.

“Every Christian is to become a little Christ. The whole purpose of becoming a Christian is simply nothing else.”

_________________________

Music:

HERE  is a song for today — “I am a Christian,” by NewSong. NewSong is an American contemporary Christian music group that was founded in 1981, at Morningside Baptist Church in Valdosta, Georgia. They have had eight GMA Dove Award nominations. This is one of their new songs. (haha!)

_________________________

27 During this time some prophets traveled from Jerusalem to Antioch. 28 One of them named Agabus stood up in one of the meetings and predicted by the Spirit that a great famine was coming upon the entire Roman world. (This was fulfilled during the reign of Claudius.)

Ancient records show that under Claudius there were years of bad harvests and subsequent food shortages in Rome, Greece, Egypt, and Judea.

29 So the believers in Antioch decided to send relief to the brothers and sisters in Judea, everyone giving as much as they could. 30 This they did, entrusting their gifts to Barnabas and Saul to take to the elders of the church in Jerusalem.

_________________________

Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright © 1996, 2004 by Tyndale Charitable Trust. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers.

Images courtesy of:
Antioch of Syria map.    http://www.lakesideministries.com/images/ActsMap_1st_Missionary_Journey_Ends.jpg
Peter’s vision.  http://www.lavistachurchofchrist.org/Pictures/The%20Early%20Church%20Artwork/target10.html
believe button.  https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/236x/d2/c8/f5/d2c8f57cb1130cefe8732e49b0cf6759.jpg
cross and star of David.  http://syfilis.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/10/Major-Differences-between-Christianity-Judaism.png
Hello.  My name is Christian.  https://dwellingintheword.files.wordpress.com/2011/01/hello_my_name_is_christian_tshirt.jpg?w=450
Martin Luther.    https://www.biography.com/.image/c_fill%2Ccs_srgb%2Cg_face%2Ch_300%2Cq_80%2Cw_300/MTE1ODA0OTcxNzA3MjM3OTAx/martin-luther-9389283-1-402.jpg
C. S. Lewis.    http://www.turnbacktogod.com/wp-content/uploads/2008/08/cs-lewis.jpg

2186.) Acts 10:34-48

September 18, 2017

Acts 10:34-48   (NLT)

The Gentiles Hear the Good News

34 Then Peter replied, “I see very clearly that God shows no favoritism. 35 In every nation he accepts those who fear him and do what is right. 36 This is the message of Good News for the people of Israel—that there is peace with God through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all. 37 You know what happened throughout Judea, beginning in Galilee, after John began preaching his message of baptism. 38 And you know that God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power. Then Jesus went around doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him.

Isaiah 61:1-3 (NIV)

The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me,
because the LORD has anointed me
to preach good news to the poor.

He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim freedom for the captives
and release from darkness for the prisoners,

to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor
and the day of vengeance of our God,
to comfort all who mourn,

and provide for those who grieve in Zion—
to bestow on them a crown of beauty
instead of ashes,
the oil of gladness
instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise
instead of a spirit of despair.

39 “And we apostles are witnesses of all he did throughout Judea and in Jerusalem. They put him to death by hanging him on a cross, 40 but God raised him to life on the third day. Then God allowed him to appear, 41 not to the general public, but to us whom God had chosen in advance to be his witnesses. We were those who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. 42 And he ordered us to preach everywhere and to testify that Jesus is the one appointed by God to be the judge of all—the living and the dead. 43 He is the one all the prophets testified about, saying that everyone who believes in him will have their sins forgiven through his name.”

Gentiles Receive the Holy Spirit

10. dove

44 Even as Peter was saying these things, the Holy Spirit fell upon all who were listening to the message. 45 The Jewish believers who came with Peter were amazed that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out on the Gentiles, too. 46 For they heard them speaking in tongues and praising God.

Then Peter asked, 47 “Can anyone object to their being baptized, now that they have received the Holy Spirit just as we did?” 48 So he gave orders for them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Afterward Cornelius asked him to stay with them for several days.

God keeps breaking out of the box religion tries to keep Him restrained in.

At Pentecost, the Holy Spirit was poured out on “all flesh.” In the Old Testament it had been just the prophets, priests and kings who received the Holy Spirit. In the church age, the Holy Spirit is for everyone, even those who are not Jews.

When somebody receives the Holy Spirit, we know they must be born again–even if they don’t fit our picture of what a Christian should look like.

Prayer
Holy Spirit, come and fill me to overflowing. Amen.

–from New Life Christian Fellowship, NSW, Australia

_________________________

Music:

HERE is prayer to the Holy Spirit:  “Holy Spirit, Living Breath of God,” by Keith Getty and Stuart Townend. Oh, to make this our daily prayer as believers! How would our world change!

_________________________

Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright © 1996, 2004 by Tyndale Charitable Trust. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers.

Images courtesy of:
partiality.    http://cdn.knowing-jesus.com/wp-content/uploads/Acts-10-34-God-Does-Not-Show-Partiality-cream-copy.jpg
beauty for ashes.   http://fellowshiproom.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/09/beauty_for_ashes_logo3.jpg
embroidered dove.  http://www.windstarembroidery.com/cw2/Assets/product_full/506.jpg
Peter preaches.    https://newlifenarrabri.files.wordpress.com/2014/04/janstyka-saintpeter.jpg?w=350&h=200&crop=1

2185.) Acts 10:1-33

September 15, 2017
Aeriel view of the harbor at ancient Caesarea

Aeriel view of the harbor at ancient Caesarea

Acts 10:1-33 (NLT)

Cornelius Calls for Peter

1 In Caesarea

Caesarea was the headquarters of the Roman governor of the province of Judea.

there lived a Roman army officer named Cornelius, who was a captain of the Italian Regiment.

The Italians were considered the most loyal of the Roman troops. Of course, this would have caused Cornelius to be all the more despised by the Jews.

2 He was a devout, God-fearing man, as was everyone in his household. He gave generously to the poor and prayed regularly to God. 3 One afternoon about three o’clock, he had a vision in which he saw an angel of God coming toward him. “Cornelius!” the angel said.

4 Cornelius stared at him in terror. “What is it, sir?” he asked the angel.

And the angel replied, “Your prayers and gifts to the poor have been received by God as an offering! 5 Now send some men to Joppa, and summon a man named Simon Peter. 6 He is staying with Simon, a tanner who lives near the seashore.”

7 As soon as the angel was gone, Cornelius called two of his household servants and a devout soldier, one of his personal attendants. 8 He told them what had happened and sent them off to Joppa.

Peter’s Vision

10. Peter's vision animals

9 The next day as Cornelius’s messengers were nearing the town, Peter went up on the flat roof to pray.

The housetop was not unlike our outdoor open patio.

It was about noon, 10 and he was hungry. But while a meal was being prepared, he fell into a trance. 11 He saw the sky open, and something like a large sheet was let down by its four corners. 12 In the sheet were all sorts of animals, reptiles, and birds. 13 Then a voice said to him, “Get up, Peter; kill and eat them.”

14 “No, Lord,” Peter declared. “I have never eaten anything that our Jewish laws have declared impure and unclean.”

15 But the voice spoke again: “Do not call something unclean if God has made it clean.” 16 The same vision was repeated three times. Then the sheet was suddenly pulled up to heaven.

17 Peter was very perplexed. What could the vision mean? Just then the men sent by Cornelius found Simon’s house. Standing outside the gate, 18 they asked if a man named Simon Peter was staying there.

19 Meanwhile, as Peter was puzzling over the vision, the Holy Spirit said to him, “Three men have come looking for you. 20 Get up, go downstairs, and go with them without hesitation. Don’t worry, for I have sent them.”

21 So Peter went down and said, “I’m the man you are looking for. Why have you come?”

22 They said, “We were sent by Cornelius, a Roman officer. He is a devout and God-fearing man, well respected by all the Jews. A holy angel instructed him to summon you to his house so that he can hear your message.” 23 So Peter invited the men to stay for the night.

Oh, now I get it, Peter thinks. This whole clean and unclean thing — not so much food, as people!

Peter Visits Cornelius

The next day he went with them, accompanied by some of the brothers from Joppa.

Many years before, another Jew had come to Joppa with the same mission — to take God’s word to the Gentiles. Jonah refused to obey. But Peter is willing to change his own perceptions to bring them in line with God’s plan for the world.

24 They arrived in Caesarea the following day. Cornelius was waiting for them and had called together his relatives and close friends. 25 As Peter entered his home,

He goes into a Gentile home! That act took, I think, no small amount of courage. Peter understands the vision, that all people are acceptable to God and have the right, if you will, to hear the gospel.

Cornelius fell at his feet and worshiped him. 26 But Peter pulled him up and said, “Stand up! I’m a human being just like you!”

Psalm 115:1 (NKJV)

Not unto us, O LORD, not unto us,
But to Your name give glory,
Because of Your mercy,
Because of Your truth.

27 So they talked together and went inside, where many others were assembled.

28 Peter told them, “You know it is against our laws for a Jewish man to enter a Gentile home like this or to associate with you. But God has shown me that I should no longer think of anyone as impure or unclean. 29 So I came without objection as soon as I was sent for. Now tell me why you sent for me.”

30 Cornelius replied, “Four days ago I was praying in my house about this same time, three o’clock in the afternoon. Suddenly, a man in dazzling clothes was standing in front of me. 31 He told me, ‘Cornelius, your prayer has been heard, and your gifts to the poor have been noticed by God! 32 Now send messengers to Joppa, and summon a man named Simon Peter. He is staying in the home of Simon, a tanner who lives near the seashore.’ 33 So I sent for you at once, and it was good of you to come. Now we are all here, waiting before God to hear the message the Lord has given you.”

It is frequently noted that Peter did not open the doors for the Gentiles as much as Cornelius opened the door for Peter. Or as John Stott puts it,  “The principle subject of this chapter is not so much the conversion of Cornelius as the conversion of Peter.”

_________________________

Music:

HERE  is an old Fanny Crosby hymn which echos the request Cornelius had for Peter — “Tell Me the Story of Jesus.”

_________________________

Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright © 1996, 2004 by Tyndale Charitable Trust. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers.

Images courtesy of:
harbor.  http://www.bibleplaces.com/newsletter/hr/Caesarea_aerial_from_northwest,_tb121704937sr.jpg
animals in sheet.   https://www.gci.org/files/tuvision.gif
Jonah and the whale.    http://bible.phillipmartin.info/bible_jonah.gif

2184.) Acts 9:26-43

September 14, 2017

Acts 9:26-43   (NLT)

Saul in Jerusalem

26 When Saul arrived in Jerusalem, he tried to meet with the believers, but they were all afraid of him. They did not believe he had truly become a believer! 27 Then Barnabas brought him to the apostles and told them how Saul had seen the Lord on the way to Damascus and how the Lord had spoken to Saul. He also told them that Saul had preached boldly in the name of Jesus in Damascus.

I think there must be a special place in Heaven for people like Ananias and Barnabas who offer, so kindly, the simple gift of friendship in Jesus’ name.

28 So Saul stayed with the apostles and went all around Jerusalem with them, preaching boldly in the name of the Lord. 29 He debated with some Greek-speaking Jews, but they tried to murder him. 30 When the believers heard about this, they took him down to Caesarea and sent him away to Tarsus, his hometown.

31 The church then had peace throughout Judea, Galilee, and Samaria, and it became stronger as the believers lived in the fear of the Lord. And with the encouragement of the Holy Spirit, it also grew in numbers.

Here is another true story from my friends in South Asia; they teach local pastors to tell Bible stories to their congregations and the pastors return with amazing reports! These stories make me ashamed of how careless I am, so often, in living out my faith.

Forsaking Christ in Persecution
Told by B.B.

When the violence and persecution against Christians took place in our area, some of the believers in our churches backslid because of fear. The persecutors demanded written statements from them saying, “We are forsaking Christianity and are adopting the Hindu religion.”

I along with many others were praying for them. Whenever I met them, I would encourage them to be faithful to Christ. My heart was breaking as I told them the story of how Paul [Saul] was persecuting the Christians, and how he became a servant of Christ (Acts 8:1-3 and chapter 9).

I said, “See how God is much greater than anything. If you forget Him now, then there may be no chance for you to accept Christ again and follow Him as your personal Savior.”

One of them who had gone back said, “If I will be a Christian again, then I will have to suffer a lot.”

And I told him, “Brother, this is the life of a Christian.”

I kept praying for him, and the next time we met, he told me he has started attending church again. Now many of those who backslid are slowly coming back. Even though they had given the written application saying, “We are forsaking Christianity and we are adopting the Hindu religion,” now they are returning to Christ.

Recently I learned about three more families who had backslidden that have started attending church again, and two of those brothers are actively involved in ministry there.

Really I am so thankful to God. That story has some special power that makes a difference in our ministry. Thank you so much for teaching us these stories.

Peter Heals Aeneas and Raises Dorcas

"Healing of the Cripple" by Masolino, 1425 (Brancacci Chapel, Santa Maria del Carmine, Florence, Italy)

“Healing of the Cripple” by Masolino, 1425 (Brancacci Chapel, Santa Maria del Carmine, Florence, Italy)

32 Meanwhile, Peter traveled from place to place, and he came down to visit the believers in the town of Lydda. 33 There he met a man named Aeneas, who had been paralyzed and bedridden for eight years. 34 Peter said to him, “Aeneas, Jesus Christ heals you! Get up, and roll up your sleeping mat!” And he was healed instantly. 35 Then the whole population of Lydda and Sharon saw Aeneas walking around, and they turned to the Lord.

"Healing of Dorcas" by Masolino, (Brancacci Chapel, Santa Maria del Carmine, Florence, Italy). This is the right-hand portion, the rest of the picture above. Note the same guy in both pictures -- in the gray tights and hat, and pink tunic.

“Healing of Dorcas” by Masolino, 1425 (Brancacci Chapel, Santa Maria del Carmine, Florence, Italy). This is the right-hand portion of a wide fresco, the rest of the piece above. Note the same guy in both pictures — in the gray tights and hat, and pink tunic.

36 There was a believer in Joppa named Tabitha (which in Greek is Dorcas). She was always doing kind things for others and helping the poor. 37 About this time she became ill and died. Her body was washed for burial and laid in an upstairs room. 38 But the believers had heard that Peter was nearby at Lydda, so they sent two men to beg him, “Please come as soon as possible!”

39 So Peter returned with them; and as soon as he arrived, they took him to the upstairs room. The room was filled with widows who were weeping and showing him the coats and other clothes Dorcas had made for them.

I have a friend who is another Dorcas. She takes men’s shirts and repurposes them into dresses for small girls, similar to the picture here. Dozens of her dresses have been taken to Madagascar and the Dominican Republic, where her creative work brings joy to little girls, most of whom she will never see. But I know her work also brings joy to Jesus, who is glad to see Gayle using the gifts he gave her for some of “the least of these.”

40 But Peter asked them all to leave the room; then he knelt and prayed. Turning to the body he said, “Get up, Tabitha.” And she opened her eyes! When she saw Peter, she sat up! 41 He gave her his hand and helped her up. Then he called in the widows and all the believers, and he presented her to them alive.

42 The news spread through the whole town, and many believed in the Lord. 43 And Peter stayed a long time in Joppa, living with Simon, a tanner of hides.

For a law-keeping Jew of that time, it was strictly forbidden to associate with anyone who routinely worked with dead animals. According to the laws of that time, a tanner had to live at least 75 feet outside a village because of his ritual uncleanness.
—David Guzik

_________________________

Music:

HERE is a song for all the Dorcas-es out there. They quietly attend to things for Jesus’ sake, not seeking glory for themselves, the world not much noticing the good they are doing. But the work they are accomplishing is holy as it is done for the Lord. “Set the world on fire,” by Britt Nicole. This is for you, Gayle, and Carol, and Linda, and Carole, and Teresa, and David, and Paul, and Page, and on and on. The Lord knows your work for Him!

_________________________

Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright © 1996, 2004 by Tyndale Charitable Trust. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers.

Images courtesy of:
 Living down a bad reputation.   http://images.slideplayer.com/14/4268979/slides/slide_8.jpg
Masolino – Aeneus.   http://www.abcgallery.com/M/masaccio/masolino2.html
Masolino – Dorcas.  http://www.wga.hu/art/m/masolino/brancacc/raising.jpg
men’s shirt into a dress.   https://i.pinimg.com/236x/32/4c/fc/324cfcfdc05e09833051bacc093e7950–little-girl-dresses-girls-dresses.jpg

2183.) Acts 9:1-25

September 13, 2017

“Conversion of Saul” © Jef Murray, 2011

Acts 9:1-25   (NLT)

Saul’s Conversion

1 Meanwhile, Saul was uttering threats with every breath and was eager to kill the Lord’s followers.

Yes, we know! The last we heard of Saul he was trying to destroy the church and dragging believers off to prison.

So he went to the high priest. 2 He requested letters addressed to the synagogues in Damascus,

Damascus is 135 miles from Jerusalem. A significant journey.

asking for their cooperation in the arrest of any followers of the Way he found there. He wanted to bring them—both men and women—back to Jerusalem in chains.

Galatians 1:13-14 (NIV)

For you have heard of my previous way of life in Judaism, how intensely I persecuted the church of God and tried to destroy it.  I was advancing in Judaism beyond many of my own age among my people and was extremely zealous for the traditions of my fathers.

3 As he was approaching Damascus on this mission, a light from heaven suddenly shone down around him.

Michelangelo’s “Conversion of St. Paul”

Here is the first account in Acts of Paul’s conversion
(see also chapters 22 and 26).

4 He fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul! Saul! Why are you persecuting me?”

5 “Who are you, lord?” Saul asked.

"Conversion of St. Paul," contemporary Southern American artist Chris Cook

“Conversion of St. Paul,” contemporary Southern American artist Chris Cook

Acts 9:5 (KJV)

And he said, Who art thou, Lord?

By the miracle of Redemption Saul of Tarsus was turned in one second from a strong-willed, intense Pharisee into a humble, devoted slave of the Lord Jesus.

My Utmost for His Highest, Oswald Chambers

And the voice replied, “I am Jesus, the one you are persecuting! 6 Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.”

7 The men with Saul stood speechless, for they heard the sound of someone’s voice but saw no one! 8 Saul picked himself up off the ground, but when he opened his eyes he was blind. So his companions led him by the hand to Damascus. 9 He remained there blind for three days and did not eat or drink.

Here is my personal theory of these three days of blindness:  Saul was a brilliant man, well-trained in the Torah and unusually adept at expressing himself in speech and letters. I think he was whizzing through the reams of Scripture he had memorized and stored in his mind — putting it together, by the help of the Holy Spirit, with all that he had heard about Jesus, and becoming more and more sure that Jesus is in fact the Messiah. In his physical darkness, Saul was being spiritually enlightened. No wonder he forgot about food!

10 Now there was a believer in Damascus named Ananias. The Lord spoke to him in a vision, calling, “Ananias!”

“Yes, Lord!” he replied.

11 The Lord said, “Go over to Straight Street, to the house of Judas. When you get there, ask for a man from Tarsus named Saul. He is praying to me right now. 12 I have shown him a vision of a man named Ananias coming in and laying hands on him so he can see again.”

13 “But Lord,” exclaimed Ananias, “I’ve heard many people talk about the terrible things this man has done to the believers in Jerusalem! 14 And he is authorized by the leading priests to arrest everyone who calls upon your name.”

— just in case God didn’t know these things!

15 But the Lord said, “Go, for Saul is my chosen instrument to take my message to the Gentiles and to kings, as well as to the people of Israel. 16 And I will show him how much he must suffer for my name’s sake.”

Oh, my. Like Jesus in Gethsemane, Saul in his blindness is “counting the cost.”

17 So Ananias went and found Saul. He laid his hands on him and said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on the road, has sent me so that you might regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.”

“Ananias restoring the sight of St. Paul,” by Pietro da Cortona, 1631.

18 Instantly something like scales fell from Saul’s eyes, and he regained his sight. Then he got up and was baptized. 19 Afterward he ate some food and regained his strength.

To all of us who are praying for loved ones to come to Jesus, loved ones who seem hard or indifferent to the Word of God, or who believe themselves intellectually beyond Jesus-of-the Bible, or who are consumed by a cult or an addiction or a bad relationship — the story of Saul’s conversion is so heartening! Jesus finds them, even when they aren’t looking for Him! Let us not stop praying for them, for the Lord’s will is that none should perish, but that all should have everlasting life.

_________________________

Music:

“Just a Little Talk with Jesus (Made Me Whole)” —  HERE  is Tennessee Ernie Ford (1919-1991) and the Jordanaires.

I once was lost in sin but Jesus took me in
And then a little light from heaven filled my soul
It bathed my heart in love and wrote my name above
And just a little talk with Jesus made me whole

Now let us have a little talk with Jesus
Let us tell Him all about our troubles
He will hear our faintest cry
He will answer by and by
Now when you feel a little prayer wheel turning
Then you’ll know a little fire is burning
You will find a little talk with Jesus makes it right

Sometimes my path seems drear without a ray of cheer
And then the cloud about me hides the light of day
The mists of sin may rise and hide the stormy skies
But just a little talk with Jesus clears the way

I may have doubts and fears my eyes be filled with tears
But Jesus is a friend who watches day and and night
I go to Him in prayer He knows my every care
And just a little talk with Jesus makes it right

_________________________

Saul Preaches in Damascus

Saul stayed with the believers in Damascus for a few days. 20 And immediately he began preaching about Jesus in the synagogues, saying, “He is indeed the Son of God!”

Because Saul was a skilled student of the great rabbi Gamaliel, he could take advantage of the synagogue custom that invited any able Jewish man to speak on the Scriptures at synagogue meetings.
—David Guzik

Romans 1:16 (NASB)

For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.

21 All who heard him were amazed. “Isn’t this the same man who caused such devastation among Jesus’ followers in Jerusalem?” they asked. “And didn’t he come here to arrest them and take them in chains to the leading priests?”

2 Corinthians 5:17 (NIV)

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!

22 Saul’s preaching became more and more powerful, and the Jews in Damascus couldn’t refute his proofs that Jesus was indeed the Messiah.

Saul Escapes from the Jews

Later Paul remembers this event, as pictured here by James Shaw Crompton. 2 Corinthians 11:32-33 -- "In Damascus the governor under King Aretas had the city of the Damascenes guarded in order to arrest me. But I was lowered in a basket from a window in the wall and slipped through their hands."

Later Paul remembers this event, as pictured here by James Shaw Crompton. 2 Corinthians 11:32-33 — “In Damascus the governor under King Aretas had the city of the Damascenes guarded in order to arrest me. But I was lowered in a basket from a window in the wall and slipped through their hands.”

23 After a while some of the Jews plotted together to kill him.

He who was once the hound is now the fox.

24 They were watching for him day and night at the city gate so they could murder him, but Saul was told about their plot. 25 So during the night, some of the other believers lowered him in a large basket through an opening in the city wall.

Job 19:20 (ESV)

I have escaped by the skin of my teeth.

_________________________

Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright © 1996, 2004 by Tyndale Charitable Trust. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers.

Images courtesy of:
Murray.   https://dwellingintheword.files.wordpress.com/2011/01/murray.jpg?w=450
Michelangelo.   http://www.mystudios.com/art/italian/michelangelo/michelangelo-st-paul.jpg
Cook.  http://www.chriscookartist.com/images/stpaul.jpg
candle put out.    http://www.markmallett.com/blog/wp-images/Smoldering_wick.jpg
Pietro da Cortona.   https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ananias_of_Damascus#/media/File:Saint_Paul_Ananias_Sight_Restored.jpg
Crompton.   https://dwellingintheword.files.wordpress.com/2009/12/9-crompton.jpg?w=450